Developer: Serenity Forge
Publisher: Serenity Forge
Release Date: May 15th, 2015
Platforms: PC, Mac (Steam)
A review copy was provided by Serenity Forge
Luna’s Wandering Stars, Serenity Forge’s upcoming physics puzzler, puts you in the role of Luna – or more simply, the moon. Starting at Mercury, you progress through several levels on each planet of the solar system, each of them introducing a new and unique mechanic to challenge you with ever-increasing complex puzzles.
An actual story doesn’t seem to accompany the game. Instead, you’re relayed messages through “comms”, which give you quippy and sarcastic comments on your progress – both good and bad. The moon within the player’s control is engulfed by a sphere that fills up as stellar mass is accumulated via asteroids and golden asteroids. The actual goal is to collect all the gold in each level, but you can progress by filling your sphere with regular asteroids as well. Other elements work into the mix that you can collect or collide with; some of it destroying you outright and others just slowing you down or sending you careening off the plane.
The controls are about as straightforward as you can hope for in a physics simulator – you exclusively use the mouse and the space bar. The mouse controls all aspects of your gameplay from adjusting the direction of your moon or altering the gravity of the planet your orbiting. It also allows for adjustment of wormholes or speed boosts you’re creating, or the lasers you’re shooting – yeah, there are lasers. Not a whole lot about what you’re doing or why makes sense, but since it doesn’t try to, it ends up working pretty well. Each level is spattered with some facts about space and each planet, but besides that, it’s a wacky physics-based world. The only gripe I have with the controls is the spacebar – it’s used to start a level, to replay a level if you fail, and, inexplicably, replay a level if you succeed. Several times I beat a difficult level, only to hit the spacebar intending to start the next and just restarting the level I fought through to beat!
The first, most instantly noticeable thing about Luna’s is the difficulty curve – it spikes dramatically very early on, and only keeps going up. If you have a good grasp on physics and puzzle games, you should be able to adjust relatively quickly. If you don’t – and I found I’m not the greatest – you could be banging your head against a level for a while. Some levels have you adjust the orbit of your moon to collect asteroids while some require manipulation of the moon itself with rocket jets. Others will require altering a planet’s gravity to make the moon come closer or farther away. It isn’t long before your moon acquires the ability to fire lasers to detonate mines and unwanted asteroids that would otherwise impede your path or destroy you – and that’s only on the first four planets! Wormholes, speed boosts, and tunnel mazes follow right after along with what seems to be an endless set of puzzles to keep things changing.
Oddly, there are the occasional levels that I completed on my first try – almost by accident. It’s very unexpected, mostly because of how much trouble I was having on previous levels. It makes me question whether I accidentally did it right or the developers just threw the poor saps like me a bone.
Luna’s music seems weirdly out of place – I would have expected a more melodic, outer-space tune, or even a fast-paced beat like other puzzle games. Instead, it’s just a generic, dull fanfare that plays through the menu and the levels. The sound effects themselves are right on target replete with pleasing chimes when you collect the asteroids and gold. Satisfying blasts of lasers and a thundering noise of destruction that lets you know you failed. The cool zip of wormholes and speed boosts cap off a solid library of effects. It wasn’t long, though, I found myself turning the music off and keeping the sound effects on, and substituting my library.
The detail and level design is a treat to look at, and anyone who enjoys the cosmos will find something to be happy about. Between the realistic planet sizes in the menu and the levels where you orbit the giants, space geeks like myself will not be short for eye candy. The menus are minimalist and functional, which is the perfect way for them to be in a game of this sort – no confusing clutter, no hidden options. When it launches, Luna’s plans to feature a custom level editor and an online level sharing platform. With the complexity I experienced, I eagerly await what the fanbase will be able to manufacture.
Luna’s Wandering Stars ended up being a surprise – fun, charming, extremely challenging, frustrating, and rewarding. If you’ve ever enjoyed a physics puzzler or it sounds even remotely like something you’d be interested in, Luna’s is worth a shot.